GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Griffins players, sled dogs, ice sculptors, zoo animals, figure skaters, horse-drawn carriages, winter sport athletes, museums, libraries and local celebrities will all be part of the 2014 Great Skate Winterfest, which will run for 34 consecutive hours this Saturday, Jan. 18 and Sunday, Jan. 19 at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids.
Everyone is invited to join this celebration of winter in our city and help the Griffins Youth Foundation provide opportunities for more than 350 kids – many of whom are underprivileged, underserved, at-risk, physically challenged or have other special needs – to participate in the great sport of hockey at no cost.
The fun begins at noon on Saturday with the sixth annual Winterfest, a day full of winter-inspired events, sports demonstrations and family activities, and concludes with the 12th annual Great Skate, a 24-hour skating marathon with Griffins players that runs from 10 p.m. on Saturday until 10 p.m. on Sunday. Admission to the Great Skate Winterfest is free, although donations are encouraged and fees apply to skating ($2 per person) and carriage rides ($5 per person).
Highlights of the Winterfest include public ice skating; winter sports demonstrations at the top of each hour by speedskaters, fat bike racers, and organizations such as the Grand Rapids Sled Wings, the Grand Valley State University Synchronized Skating Club and the Greater Grand Rapids Figure Skating Club; a heated family activity tent featuring the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Grand Rapids Children's Museum, the Grand Rapids Public Library, the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Safe Kids Greater Grand Rapids and the Meijer State Games of Michigan; sled dogs from Shemhadar Kennels; ice sculpting by the Ice Gurus; animals and biofacts from the John Ball Zoo; horse-drawn carriage rides by Classic Carriage; and public demos of fat bikes from Central District Cyclery. All events are subject to change and times vary. Please visit griffinshockey.com/greatskate for complete details.
The Great Skate will commence at 10 p.m. Saturday, after the Griffins’ home game against Abbotsford has wrapped up a few blocks away at Van Andel Arena. Mascots Griff and Finn will take the event’s opening shift, and every Griffins player and coach will follow for an hour each, skating with fans and local media personalities around the clock until 10 p.m. Sunday. The lineup of Griffins skaters can be found at griffinshockey.com/greatskate.
Through that web site, fans can help raise money for the Griffins Youth Foundation by sponsoring their favorite Griffin or collecting pledges for their own participation in the Great Skate. Attendees will also have the chance to participate in an on-site silent auction featuring an array of unique items, and those who choose to make a donation to provide ice time for a foundation player (10 minutes for every dollar donated) will have the opportunity to write their names on skate-themed placards that will be displayed on the walls of the Rosa Parks Circle warming shelter during the event.
The Great Skate Winterfest is presented by the Griffins and the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation. Other sponsors include Centennial Securities, Configura, Connoisseur Design + Marketing, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., Executive Coach Service, FASTSigns, Founders Bank & Trust, the Gilmore Collection, Nestle Purina, and the Meijer State Games of Michigan. Additional support of the event is provided by Cintas, Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan, and Tim Hortons.
Established in 1995, the Griffins Youth Foundation promotes academic excellence, community involvement and healthy lifestyles among the youth of West Michigan, enhancing their lives through hockey and ice-related sports. The foundation’s programs currently include hockey for first through 12th graders and a girls-only division, as well as the Grand Rapids Sled Wings sled hockey team for physically challenged kids and teens.
For more information about the foundation, visit griffinskids.org.